‘Ready Player One’ is a love letter to nerd culture

‘Ready Player One’ is a love letter to nerd culture

‘Ready Player One’ is a love letter to nerd culture
April 02
14:22 2018

“Ready Player One” is a lot of things. It’s an action movie, a comedy and it’s visually striking. It’s got all the things you’d want in a Spielberg movie.

But it’s much more.

“Ready Player One” is a nerd and pop culture reference dispenser, a commentary on the video game industry in 2018 and an homage to every gamer out there. 

By in large, this movie captures the satisfaction so many people have felt playing their old favorite games, meeting their future best friends online and feeling at home in front of their TV screens.

It’s set in 2045, and the world is in decline due to overpopulation and pollution. Escapism is the coping drug if you will, and everyone is constantly wired into the OASIS — a virtual reality, massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, or MMORPG.

Everyone of all ages can be whoever or whatever they want. It’s every gamer’s dream. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a nobody living in the slums of Columbus, Ohio, who is an avid gamer. He’s had a rough life in poverty, and his time in the OASIS makes him feel sense of importance.

The creator of the game, James Haliday (Mark Raylance) passes away and subsequently hides three keys in the game, leading to the ultimate prize: propriety to his company and its riches. Gaming culture deems this an “Easter egg,” something hidden within the game, but not the end goal of it.

Wade is searching for it as a way out of the impoverished life he’s living. Along the way he meets Samantha (Olivia Cooke), who has a similar story to his own. They’re constantly in conflict with “IOI,” a massive company that’s clearly inspired by greedy publishers from the video game industry we all know and hate today. The company’s leader, known as Sorrento (Ben Mendelson) leads IOI and is attempting to attain the riches to become the biggest game company ever.

Visually, this movie has great action mixed with pure awe-inspiring spectacle as well. Almost every scene is chalked full of movie and gaming references, along with some music and pop culture references that have become cultural mainstays. It’s all here in the reference department, with ones from the most iconic to the most obscure like Duran Duran, “The Shining,” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Beetlejuice, Chucky, “Alien” and even forgotten games like “Battle Toads” from the NES era.

My favorite scene in the entire movie is when the Iron Giant gives a thumbs up to the protagonists as he falls into lava, a la “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” style.

Or maybe it was the Akira motor cycle racing against the Delorian from back to the future as King Kong threw airplanes at them.

How about a Gundam fighting Mechagodzilla? I couldn’t stop getting shivers as they checked off every reference I could hope they’d go for.

Occasionally there was a reference that was not delivered well or was over-explained, giving off a know-it-all kind of feel and making it feel like a cheap attempt at nostalgia, but those moments came few and far between.

Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke are great both in and out of the OASIS. Their acting skills are solid, and I can’t wait to see these young stars in the future. Ben Mendelson, who somehow always nails his many villainous roles, kills it here once again, playing a company executive who is just not in touch with what gamers want.

His character’s motivations are the only characteristically bad part of the movie. In passing, he mentions he wants the OASIS so he can push microtransactions, place tiered membership in the game and eek out every cent from the gamer.

This on its own is a bit goofy, but the movie portrays his company as very rich. Most game companies today use this practice as a way of recouping money that they couldn’t hope to get back from selling a game on its own. It demonizes game publishers without having a solid understanding of their motivations. What’s worse is that Mendelson’s Sorrento becomes willing to kill people — a theme that doesn’t really line up with how he’s portrayed in the first half of the movie.

Along with that, the script is riddled with cringeworthy terms that aren’t relevant in gaming culture any more. Words and phrases like “noob,” “camper” and “I don’t clan up” are delivered as if they’re common terms. But again, these are small qualms in comparison to how much actually works in the script’s favor overall.

“Ready Player One” is a great underdog story from Spielberg, who has not made me feel like the same kid grinning from ear to ear since “Jurassic Park.” What’s more is that he generally has a grasp on nerd culture and captures that warm, almost tear-inducing feeling of finding an Easter egg in a game you’ve been playing for years and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

If nothing else, “Ready Player One” feels like a sincere attempt to appreciate us nerds out there.

My Rating: 4/5

 Featured Image: Ready Player One Movie Facebook

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Zach Helms

Zach Helms

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